MomUP Ep. 8 | Why You Shouldn't Follow a Schedule (and what to do instead)

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***Prefer to read along instead?? I've typed out the entire show for you below! 

I have to say, I feel like today’s episode on why you shouldn't follow a schedule is going to be a bit of a  take it or leave it episode. I am not naive enough to think that what works for me will work for every mom on the planet. If you’re super type A and you couldn’t imagine your life without your baby or your kids being on a SUPER strict schedule, than this may not be your jam. That’s totally fine! However if you’re one of those moms like I was who felt like your children NEEDED to be on some sort of, super down-to-the-minute eat, play, sleep or die schedule because all the experts said so, but you found it difficult and frustrating to stick to it, than allow me to be your sigh of relief.

And -- if this episode speaks to you, be sure to listen until the end where I give YOU a freebie to help you create your own routines that work for you.

As a disclaimer here: I’m really big on time management and figuring out systems to accomplish the most things in the least amount of time. Efficiency is my love language. But --  personally I don’t think schedules are the best way to accomplish things. And I would consider myself a type A person. But I have tried setting up schedules for all sorts of things.. a schedule for my kids eat/sleep habits, a schedule for my cleaning habits, a schedule for workout, scheduling my meal plan. But no matter what I tried, they just never worked for me. They always sounded great in theory but when I tried to apply them to my life it never worked – because inevitably, life ALWAYS happens.. something always changes, something *always* comes up. There’s no such thing as a normal week. So then what happens is your schedule gets thrown off and then you have to readjust this and do that at this time instead and blah blah blah STRESSFUL. And then what happens? You feel guilty because you “got off schedule” and confused because now you have to pick which items gets removed or rearranged so you can get back on the wagon.

I tried this with my first child. And I mean I really tried it. I didn’t like do it half way and then claim it didn’t work. I tried Babywise, I tried MomsOnCall, I tried this schedule and that schedule and Lord-please-help-my-baby-sleep-more-because-I’m-gonna-die-if-I-have-to-rearrange-my-life-one-more-time schedule. Nothing changed.

Before I go on let me be clear – I’m talking about a particular KIND of schedule. I’m not saying I don’t believe in SCHEDULING anything. Obviously there has to be set times for things like appointments and meetings and the time something starts and ends. That DOES work. That’s not what I’m talking about. I’m not even talking about naptime being at the same time every day. That’s fine! Not what I’m saying either. Also, often I’ll say “schedule” when I’m talking about a “calendar”. As in, “my schedule is busy today or next week or this month”. Again, not what I mean. The “schedule” I’m talking about today a regimented list of things that you need to do IN ORDER at THE EXACT SAME TIME every single day. As in… my child eats lunch at 12:16 and if it’s 12:43 they haven’t eaten yet they will most certainly throw the tantrum of tantrums and the earth will quake and buildings will crumble. And then my child naps at 1:37pm and if it’s 2:00 then basically the earth will stop spinning, the sun will fall out of the sky and we’re all doomed and OH MY GOSH WE CAN’T GET OFF SCHEDULE…… GUYS. THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE. Because when not if you miss a certain time slot, because life happens, traffic happens, long appointments happen, blow outs happen, losing your keys happens... your heart starts to race and you feel unsettled and anxious that your schedule is getting thrown off. No thank you.

Schedules are a very controversial topic in motherhood. So if tight schedules are your thing and you love it and you think it’s working for you, AWESOME. You do you. But for all the moms out there who are just doing it because no one came in and gave them another option… this is for you.

So here’s the big secret. Ready? Do you know why schedules are such a hot topic? Do you know why so many people think it’s the only way their baby will sleep or the only way their life will have any sort of order or normalcy? The secret behind a schedule... is a routine. A schedule takes all the credit from routines, steals the thunder and tries to act like it was all the schedules idea.  But the routine is the real star, and the secret to well synced kids, moms and families. A routine is a rhythm of doing a series of events in relatively the same order each time. Eat, play, sleep. Wake up, brush teeth, drink coffee. Bath, story-time, bed. Pretty simple. A schedule takes a routine and allots a certain amount of time to those events. Wake up at 7. Breakfast at 8. Nap at 9. The clock strictly determines what comes next and how long it lasts.

I don’t like schedules, because life happens and schedules, inevitably, are (in my opinion) impossible and unrealistic for even the most diligent moms. And in my experience, when the schedule is thrown off, it causes you undue stress and the need to constantly re-calibrate to get back on track. Whether it’s a tight baby sleep schedule, work schedule, a cleaning schedule, or another area of your life that you’re in need of more structure, it’s important to allow room for frequent flexibility and change. This is what a routine offers.

A routine will allow you to have structure, without chains. It helps you stay on track and feel like you’ve got a plan and a home base, while offering grace when things get crazy.

Let’s use baby sleep schedules as an example. Before my oldest was born, I read alllll the books. I took notes, I made mental preparations, I had a plan. My goal was to get her into a rhythm that was predicable for both her and me. So that she would know (and get tired) when it was time to sleep, and I would have something to refer to to tell me what time to give my baby a nap so she would sleep well. Because let’s be honest, sometimes with newborns we just want someone, anyone, to tell us what to do and when to do it. Thinking is hard when you have a tiny human. So, the short version is, it didn’t work. So I tried another version. Nope. And another. Still a no go. I couldn’t keep up with how meticulous the timing was and even when I could, my baby was obviously a baby and didn’t follow the “rules” of when she was supposed to nap. But when everyone around you and everyone on the internet says “this is what you’re supposed to do, this is how you get a baby to sleep through the night!” it’s hard to stray from the common thread.

Let me tell you a secret about babies. Not just my babies. Babies in general. Many babies fall into their own sleep rhythms around 3 months old. The 3 naps a day? That’s not man made. That’s a common sleep pattern that many babies fall into naturally. I saw it happen in my oldest but when my 2nd child followed the same pattern, I was confident this was true. Schedule, or no schedule, it’s around this age that many babies “wake up” and stretch out their daytime hours in favor of nighttime hours and often fall into their own natural sleep rhythms. So if your schedule started magically working around 3 months... it’s possible that your baby’s natural rhythms just kicked in. Once I realized that my kids were falling into their own sleep patterns without any help from me, it was easy to take what they were already leaning towards and guide them into 3 naps a day. I tell you that to say, that discovering this was my wake up call, and my saving grace with schedules. We are all naturally prone to rhythms & routines. Even the most spontaneous and unpredictable people have rhythms in some areas. But we take a good thing and make it impossible when we take a routine and try to force it into a strait jacket schedule.

To keep with the baby example, I’ll tell you how we apply this to my kids and their naps. After this realization with my oldest, I gave up on scheduling her naps down to the minute. Instead we adopted a “routine” of one morning, one mid day, and one late afternoon nap. But I didn’t watch the clock anymore. She woke up when she woke up – unless we had to be somewhere there was no way I was waking her up just to stick to a nap “schedule”. She would eat, we would play, we would do whatever we needed to do and then, whenever she was giving cues that she was tired, I would put her down for her morning nap. That’s it. It’s amazing how much better they nap when they’re actually tired instead of when the clock says it’s time. She napped for however long – I didn’t hold expectations too tightly. And then she’d wake up and we’d take our routine from there. When she was tired again mid day, I’d put her down again. But if she got tired earlier? Great! Take an earlier nap! No sense in making her miserable just to hold to a schedule. In my experience that did NOT help get her to sleep through the night any sooner. But quick disclaimer: I am obviously NOT a sleep specialist. I’m not telling you how to get your baby to sleep through the night. I’m simply sharing the power of a good routine with you. With that said -- if she didn’t seem tired I’d still put her down around her typical nap time and I’d let her fuss if needed. Once she fell into her own patterns, we created our routine around that and stuck to it. It was important to me that my kids weren’t glued to the clock, but rather glued to the habits we were setting. So while naptimes were not happening at the exact same time every day (more like between 9 and 10, around 12 or 1, etc) once she was tired and it was naptime, and she was in the crib (or wherever their main sleep space is).. she knew that naptime was a non negotiable. The choice is either lay down and sleep, or roll and around and babble and play. But either way I have them stay in that crib for their allotted naptime and I wasn’t coming to rescue them from naptime. Personally I let my children cry to a reasonable extent. Every mom knows the difference between like wahh I don’t wanna take a nap cry and screaming bloody murder I’m not okay, where’s my mommy cry. You also probably know if your child has a flare for the dramatic or not. You of course use your discretion with your own children to decide what needs your intervention and what doesn’t. The point is, it was important to me that my kids learned “hey I’m in my crib, that means I take a nap and afterwards mom will come get me again”. That was the ROUTINE. However, unlike a schedule, we didn’t stick to a particular time firmly because 1 it didn’t feel realistic and 2 I wanted them to expect the nap when they were tired or when I offered it, not when the clock demanded it. Even more so once my second was born, I realized it was vital to my sanity that the kids knew naptime was defined by the circumstance, not the clock. This was HUGE in allowing us the freedom to not be tethered to the house because the nap schedule wouldn’t allow it. It helped my kids learn to go with flow. Creating these expectations meant that whether or not they felt like taking a nap, they knew that once in that crib they could sleep or not sleep but it was it was naptime – and they almost always chose to sleep. So if they were tired and we were out – that’s fine, take a nap in your carseat. But when we get home you still have your allotted naptime. And if they choose not to sleep, fine. But it still happens. And then by giving them an hour or however long you choose in the crib, they’re much more likely to actually fall back asleep after a short car nap than if the nap is attempted but they cry a little and get out of it. Here’s the most important thing I learned about kids and routines. Babies and children will take on whatever habits you teach them. Wake up times, nap times, bed times, meal times... just like us, they will operate on what they know. A flexible routine helps me help my kids not expect certain things at exact times and be able to go with the flow when things change, as they so often do. It cuts down on the meltdowns and the whining, and really just gives us all a little more freedom.

But routines aren’t just for kids. In addition to flexibility, routines also offer you a way to create new habits that foster productivity. As moms, we’re constantly playing catch up. Since we wear so many hats, there’s always 5 to do lists happening at once and a million things demanding our attention that all feel important. When so many things inevitably don’t get done at the end of the day, it leaves us feeling behind and overwhelmed. Building routines into our everyday habits helps us to tackle the things we know are coming before they have a chance to overwhelm us. Which in turn frees up the rest of our time to use in ways we actually want to. If for example, you can get into the habit of a morning routine that includes reading your bible, making your bed, putting in a load of laundry and unloading the dishwasher – before you do anything else, then you’re already one step ahead of your day before things get crazy. It doesn’t mean you have to wake up at 6, read until 6:30, make the bed at 7 and so on. But just doing things in the same order each time forms the habit of getting them done. If every night before dinner you do a 10 minute pick up around the house, you’ve just saved yourself from wandering around the house absentmindedly after the kids are in bed trying to clean up, and wasting that time you could be using to spend time with your spouse or relax to your favorite tv show.

With routines, you can habitually fit in the things you need to do anyway without having to plan or think about it. It saves time and energy because once a routine is established, you can flow through it automatically without willing yourself to do them throughout the day (a work out is a great example of this). Having a routine offers you freedom by efficiently prioritizing and checking off the things you want to make absolutely sure get done.

So this is why routines hold a special place in my heart. I value my time and I don’t like the feeling of chores, errands and to do’s stacking up on my plate. Routines allow me to foster flexibility in my children’s expectations as well as get things done that I need to, which frees up my best time to spend it where I want to – with my family.  I hope this was helpful for you guys and gives you something to think about – or gives you some freedom if you’re a mom who felt trapped in the tight grip of unrealistic expectations you’ve placed on yourself. Because as you know, life is messy and imperfect. Having the best routine in the world won’t change that there are days that go south. But for me, my use of time is a HUGE way that I can “MomUP” and give my husband and my kids my best time, while not falling prey to an overwhelming list of to do’s and keeping my other responsibilities in check.

If this episode resonated with you, I have something for you. I’ve created a FREE Basic Routines Starter Guide. It gives you a step by step breakdown of creating routines that serve you and your family and give you back that time you so desperately crave. All you have to do is enter your email in the blue sign up box at the top of the page, and it will come straight to your inbox! Again, it’s 100% free because I love you :) I can’t wait to hear what routines you’ve created and what you’re doing with all that freed up time!

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